My comedy partner and I are always on the lookout for industry days that can help to inspire us, and so when I accidentally stumbled across this day-long comedy conference online, we bought our tickets quicker than you can say “Are you sure you can afford this?” Needless to say, this event wasn’t cheap. Although, we were lucky enough to qualify for the earlybird special – about 100 quid a ticket. Lunch was included, as well as unlimited tea and coffee.
On arrival, the organiser made a real effort to meet and greet everyone, and make them feel welcome. Taking place at the rather grandiose Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell, the whole day was set up in three rooms, with three different talks occurring each hour – you chose which most tickled your fancy and went along. Each talk had three or four speakers from the industry, and topics ranged from bagging yourself an agent to getting your voice on radio. So, that was the premise but was it worth my hard earned money? Yes and no.
Yes, the talks were interesting and it was a chance to network with people in the biz and take notes on the various do’s and don’ts. However, as a sketch comedy performer I felt a little ignored. The talks were mostly about writing stand-up, sitcom and radio, but nothing about how to approach the world of sketch comedy. This subject was touched on once or twice, but it would have been nice if there was a whole talk devoted to us sketchy folk.
Certainly, the highlight of the event for me was getting to meet two very famous comedy greats. Al Murray gave a wonderful interview about writing a character and how to get the biggest laughs along the way. Something that stuck out for me was “Write the third thing that comes into your head. The first is what everyone thinks, the second is what the smart people think, but the third is what only you’d think”. Good advice when you’re tearing your hair out over a line in a new script.
Another comedy legend who graced us with her presence was Jo Brand. Her biggest advice was to trust your instinct and believe in yourself that you know what is funny. Because when too many people jump in, it can ruin the magic. More often than not, “Some jumped-up little t**t who has just graduated will tell you what is wrong with your script.”
Something that I found a little frustrating about the event was the amount of contradiction that occurred between each speaker, and not necessarily in the same seminar. Just as I was told one thing in a talk, I was told the opposite elsewhere – confusing to say the least! Although, this is no one’s fault and it shouldn’t reflect on the event. However, it would have been nice to have had a certain amount of cohesion when it came to the advice that was being given by the industry professionals.
Looking back on the day as a whole, if you are a stand-up comedian or a sitcom writer, I’d say this is a conference you do not want to miss if it returns next year. If you are a sketch comedian thinking of going, I would advise that you pick your talks carefully and be prepared to listen to something that may not apply to you. But, it’s always good to keep your foot in the door and this is a cracking opportunity to do some serious networking.
Pictured: Al Murray at the Big Comedy Conference
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